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The Financial Times reports that Tesco has joined Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Metro to create a coalition of the world's four largest supermarket groups “in endorsing a new global initiative to encourage a unified approach to promoting good working conditions in the supply chain.”

The goal would be to both prevent labor abuses in foreign factories such as the hiring of underage workers and the lack of appropriate safety measures, and to avoid the public relations disasters that often result when such conditions are made public. The approach would go beyond the simple monitoring of conditions and look to establish basic rules for vendor-retailer relationships, educating overseas managers and workers about basic standards to which they must adhere.
KC's View:
The challenge, of course, is that if these companies are going to insist on better working conditions in these foreign factories, they are also going to have to face the inevitability of higher costs…which is what they were trying to avoid when they outsourced to those foreign locations to begin with.

The reality, though, is that in today’s world, any violations of human safety and/or human dignity can be immediately captured on video by a cell phone, and then instantly made available to the entire world. Which means that Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Metro and Tesco can’t really afford not to be vigilant about how their vendors operate.